Architecture’s long relationship with furniture and product design remind us of alternative career paths for architects | News


An architectural background offers a specific level of skills and expertise that individuals can use and leverage outside of traditional employment formats. Take furniture making and product design, for example. This long-standing relationship between architects diving into furniture and product design can be seen in pieces like Mies van der Rohe‘s Barcelona Chair, the Eames‘ line of iconic chairs, Zaha Hadid’s Mesa Table, or my personal favorite Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair

This merging of craft and discipline has offered individuals with a background in architecture to pursue other branches of design to satisfy their creative interests. In Archinect’s Working Out of the Box series, we’ve had the opportunity to chat with several architects and designers who have pivoted their professional interests into specialized craft-related disciplines such as textile design, sculpture, and furniture/product design. We learn how valuable and multi-dimensional an architecture background can be through these interviews and conversations. 

Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons CC BY 2.5

So if one wants to enter the field of furniture and product design, what does it take, and where does one start? Well, the team from the Brooklyn-based furniture design studio OTTRAwho are currently hiring, explain, “maybe you’re an architect and want to try something else.” OTTRA, an entity of the architecture and design studio – Zimmerman Workshop, has designed objects such as tables, seating, and modular shelves since 2017. 

The practice echoes the importance of illustrating ideas and bringing them to life. OTTRA shares, “We need an expert at Rhino, Autocad, and the Adobe suite who requires no software training. We need someone who can take a concept sketch and run with it. CNC programming will be required as well as occasional operating support. At times you may be asked to operate the CNC machines depending on workload.” They also add that having experience in a woodshop and millwork in commercial environments is a plus. 

Table from Catenary Collection. Image courtesy of OTTRA

Image courtesy of OTTRA

Like most architecture jobs, understanding how to turn ideas drawn on paper into physical works is vital for any budding furniture and product designer. From prototyping to manufacturing, studios specializing in design objects and furniture use scale differently. Rather than focusing on larger-than-life designs that become a part of the architectural fabric of cities and spaces, furniture and product designers create pieces that are used and incorporated into one’s daily life a bit differently. 

Restaurant located within South Congress Hotel in Austin, TX. Image courtesy of Studio MAI

Take the multidisciplinary design team, Studio MAI, for example. They’ve created specialized design objects and furniture pieces for chefs and hotel owners since 2008. The Los Angeles-based studio is currently hiring a Furniture and Product Designer to join their team. The design group shares that they are searching for a designer with a basic understanding of residential and/or commercial construction methods and at least 6+ years of working in furniture design and production. As an interior, product, and manufacturing company specializing in hospitality, Studio MAI has worked with clients such as MADE Hotel, Verve Coffee Roasters, Inko Nito, and the South Congress Hotel. 

As part of Archinect’s job highlights series, we showcase employment opportunities for individuals with architecture backgrounds who are exploring other ways to apply their skills beyond a traditional architecture firm. Stay up to date with our latest coverage of exciting opportunities on the Archinect Job Board following the tag Interesting Jobs.

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